There’s no better way to kick-start the New Year than to indulge in a bit of release-note exploration for the upcoming Spring release. This exercise is best performed with the latest release notes to hand, a brand new pre-release org to play with and the previous release certification exams safely completed. The links below are provided for convenience.
Spring ’16 Pre-release Sign-up
Spring ’16 Release Notes
The rollout dates for the primary production instances are the 6th (2nd release weekend), 12th and 13th February (final release weekend); specific instance dates are stated on the trust.salesforce.com site.
As expected the Spring ’16 release is focused on consolidation and enhancement of Lightning Experience; this feature set feels substantially more enterprise-ready as the intermittent performance and stability issues observed previously appear to be addressed and the feature gap from Salesforce Classic has been diminished in key areas such as reporting. A robust Lightning Experience that can be released to business users with confidence can’t come soon enough for many, although with features gaps remaining and Person Account compatibility at Beta status the Summer release may present a more realistic timeline.
This post briefly outlines selected highlights related to the Force.com platform (in no order of significance).
– features are GA if not indicated otherwise
Developer Sandbox Limits Increase
All editions that include sandbox licenses have significantly increased limits. Enterprise Edition customers now get access to 25 developer sandboxes instead of 1. I had to read this a few times to take the news in. The single sandbox constraint for EE customers has been a challenge for many implementations trying to adopt development lifecycle best-practices or to simply isolate testing from development or UAT or indeed develop multiple projects in parallel. The new limit will provide a significant level of flexibility here and promote a standard-based approach, I hope.
Post Sandbox Copy Script
A new Apex interface (SandboxPostCopy) enables Apex script to be executed automatically post Sandbox copy operation (create or refresh). In a similar fashion to the PostInstallScript interface used by ISV to apply configuration steps and data creation tasks following package installation the new interface should help prepare a sandbox using a standardised, validated and automated approach.
Lightning Experience – Person Account Compatibility (Beta)
Person Account compatibility is highly anticipated by all B2C implementations unable to consider Lighting Experience otherwise. With the Spring ’16 release a beta status compatibility is provided which at least provides an ability to test and explore Lightning Experience in a sandbox setting.
Lightning Experience – UI Enhancements
List View filters can now be edited on-the-fly and record detail pages support inline editing. Both features providing enhancement to the general user experience. The ability to view embedded charts and to manipulate filters on the List View page is a real improvement in this area. Inline editing simply reinstates a capability taken for granted by most. It is also possible to define custom navigation menus and assign by User Profile to deliver a customised view to different users.
Lightning Experience – Reporting
The reporting feature gap between Lighting Experience and Salesforce Classic prior to Spring ’16 made for difficult reading. The new release establishes some degree of feature parity with Dashboard Filters, Dynamic Dashboards, Dashboard table components and the ability to view record details on Matrix Reports all making a welcome return.
Lightning Experience – Detect User Experience
Files Connect for Box (Pilot)
Files held on the Box cloud are now accessible directly in Salesforce via the Files Connect feature. Given how commonplace it is that Salesforce and Box are used in concert a standardised approach is highly convenient particularly where support extends to on-premise data sources (Sharepoint etc.).
Custom Metadata Types
Custom Metadata Types have been enhanced to support bulk creation scenarios and the upsert operation. Picklist fields are also supported, although this a beta status feature for Spring ’16. CMT provide the basis for a variety of platform-on-a-platform use cases or simply convenient application configuration management. Continued investment in this area is great news for the developer community.
Apex Test Suites
As a long-time advocate of a structured approach to Apex Unit Test classes the new Test Suite features is an excellent introduction. In short Test Classes can be arbitrarily grouped in the context of a parent Test Suite label, the suite itself can then be selected at the time of test execution from the New Suite run option. Test Suite definition and invocation takes place in the Developer Console.
Apex Unit Tests
New developers writing Apex Unit tests have suffered for years with the platform constraint that setup and non-setup objects can’t be created in the same Apex transaction (Mixed DML Operation Error). Typically this is problematic where User records are created in the test context alongside test records such as Accounts etc. With Spring ’16 it is now possible to create the setup object via @future method. A second improvement in context is the ability to change record creation date field values using the System.Test.setCreatedDate method. Where record processing logic is temporal in nature this ability will be helpful in writing tests that correctly validate the code logic.
Lightning Out (Beta)
Lightning Out provides the capability to securely embed Lighting Components into a remote application running on any external platform or container. This YouTube link provides a great introduction to the power and potential of Lightning Out.
Platform Security Health Check
Spring ’16 provides an interesting new security Health Check feature that enables the current org configuration to be compared against a Salesforce recommended baseline. Any feature that highlights security risk or vulnerability is positive addition and should help mitigate against complacency.